Thanksgiving is almost upon us. I have so many things to be thankful for, but that is a matter for another post, which I hope will come soon. Today, I want to think about how I can cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, and thanksgiving, in my kids. How can Joy and I help them to truly understand how incredibly blessed we are?
This is perhaps harder in our culture than most. We do not live in a culture of gratitude, we live in a culture of consumerism. Everyday, we are bombarded with images that tell us to want more. Even in our “Christian” subculture, we are enticed to buy the newest study Bible, Christian T-shirt, CD, or DVD. Commercials tout how wonderful the new model of some toy is, and how the old one is so out of date it must be thrown away and replaced. Broken toys, books, electronics, and such are all cheaper to replace than fix, adding to the throw away and buy more motif.
At this time of year, family begins to ask what the kids would like for Christmas, and “nothing” seems an unacceptable answer. We ask our three kids what they want, and try to get some idea of which toys/books/etc. would actually be used and appreciated for more than a day or two, but end up just guessing to some extent. I worry that this focus is teaching our kids that Christmas, and Channukah for us as well, turns into a season of getting, and wishing for more things than we could ever really need. Joy and I have come to a place where we are tired of it, and just get the list part over with so we can move on to the buying of gifts to bless others with. Do our kids understand this?
We have realized this year that we need to be intentional about helping our children learn what the focus of Thanksgiving and Christmas really should be all about. I thought I would share a couple of ideas that we tossed around to try to battle the consumerism of this time of year in our culture. First, we will continue to give them some money to drop in Salvation Army collection tins as we go in and out of stores, and impress on them how this will help others who are so much more in need than we are. We also plan to start a new tradition this year: we are going to have the kids pick a child from an Angel Tree or Salvation Army program that has the names of kids who either have a parent in prison, or some other need that makes it unlikely that they will receive presents this Christmas. (We haven’t decided yet whether to do one child as a family, or have each child pick a child around their age to bless.) Then we will involve the kids in selecting the gift or gifts for the child, and delivering them to the collection location. We want them to be involved in the process so they can understand the importance of giving to others.
We also hope to find ways to bless other people around us, preferably anonymously. This may be hard to convey right now, since the kids don’t yet have the idea of keeping a secret. The goal is to let them see that we don’t just tell them to be grateful and bless others, but that Mommy and Daddy do it to.
We also try to help them to understand that they have more toys than our house can reasonably hold accessible at one time. Toys are rotated, and if they want to bring toys back up from storage in the basement, they have to tell us what toys we can take down to store or give away. We tell them that every toy they give away helps to provide toys for other little girls and boys who aren’t able to afford all the new toys that they have received from us and friends and family.
These are a few of our ideas … I’m curious what else we can do. I’m sure we’re not the only family trying to instill gratitude and thankfulness into our kids. Please feel free to share your family’s ideas, however simple or complex they may be, in the comment area below! I’d love to get some new ideas that Joy and I can integrate into our family. We are so blessed, but we don’t want to allow our children to take it for granted. Thanks be to God for the wonderful friends and family that He has surrounded us with. I know so many of you share our desire, and look forward to hearing what some of you do that can help us. Thanks!!
One of our friends from McBiC reminded me via facebook that serving together can be powerful as well. Lots of food banks, thrift stores, etc. can use volunteer help this time of year, and serving as a family can be a great way to bond and instill an attitude of thankfulness for our blessings.